It’s not easy to be healthy. And it’s even harder to be healthy at work, where chances are—despite the vogue for standing desks and the like—you’re parked in a chair for most of the day, focused on a screen. The average workweek, by one recent measure, is now 47 hours and counting. By and large, more time spent at the office means more time hunched over a computer, probably eating lunch at a desk. Stress—which has been linked to increased risk of stroke, heart disease, and other health issues—is just about inevitable as a result.
Knowing how to be healthy, though, isn’t the biggest problem—many of us are better informed than ever about how to make healthy choices. And while federal guidelines may shift a bit over time, the basics—like eating more whole grains and vegetables and fewer processed foods, or moving more and sitting less—remain basically the same. Putting that knowledge into practice is the real challenge.
This isn’t lost on employers, many of which have already come to terms with the research pointing to correlations between productivity and healthy choices—from physical activity to good eating habits. More and more, you don’t have to work at Google (as I do) to gain access to an employer-provided gym or fitness stipends or even free healthy meals at work. But there are already signs that businesses are looking past those low-tech options to explore another way to boost their employees’ health and wellness: machine learning.